Let’s Dance: Popular Dance Styles for SeniorsLet’s Dance: Popular Dance Styles for Seniors

Ready to feel better, enjoy time with friends, and boost your health? Put on your dancing shoes. Dance offers many health benefits, including better balance and coordination and a potential delay of dementia onset. Among the popular styles of dance for seniors are line dancing, ballroom, tap, and even belly dance. Here are some tips for finding a class, learning a new type of dance, and getting started—even if you have mobility issues or have never danced before.

First, the science behind how dance helps you feel better. A 21-year long study of seniors run by New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that among the activities studied – including walking, biking,  swimming, golfing, and frequent social dancing–only dancing offered any protection against dementia. What’s more, dancing reduced the dementia risk of the seniors in the study by 76%. Reading cut their risk by 35%, and frequent crossword puzzles reduced it by 47%.

According to an article shared by Stanford Unviersity’s dance division, dance may protect the mind by helping it stay alert to new possibilities that require frequent, quick decision-making, such as when you’re following a partner’s lead during a foxtrot.

Ballroom dancing

That dementia study is especially good news for adults who came of age when social partner dancing had a more structure than the club and rave dancing that’s popular today. Whether you’re more into the twist, the hustle, or waltzes and salsa dance, social ballroom dance is a great option for seniors. Ballroom dance is also great for preventing falls, according to a study from Brazil.

You don’t need to have a partner, either, although it’s fun to go to class with someone you know. Most instructors will pair up students once class begins. Yes, You Can Dance in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, tailors ballroom dance classes to adults age 60 and up, including students who use walkers and wheelchairs.

Line dancing

Line dancing offers the social aspects of group dance without the challenge of leading or following a partner. Line dancing is also a great skill to have when you’re at a country and western club, a wedding reception, or another big social gathering, because it’s easy for everyone to join in. Youthful Hearts in Marin County, California offers line dance classes just for students over 50.

Tap dancing

Fans of classic movie and Broadway musicals may really get into tap dancing. It’s not usually a partner dance, but for building leg strength, balance, and quickness of movement, it’s hard to beat. Look for an adult beginner class and invest in a good fitting, sturdy pair of tap shoes. Some teachers, like Sarah Draper of Houston, offer seniors-only beginner and intermediate classes and even performing groups.

Belly dancing

This folkdance and film-inspired form of Middle Eastern movement is surprisingly popular among older women (and some men), thanks to its ability to create stronger core muscles without putting undue strain on hips and knees. There are belly dance instructors in just about every city in America. Some, like the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, offer classes that blend fitness principles with Egyptian-style dance moves.

What to look for in a senior dance class

If you can, talk to the instructor before your first class to find out if he or she has experience teaching older adults. You should also ask if the teacher or staff has first aid and CPR training. Find out what you should wear and bring to class, and whether it’s OK to arrive a few minutes early to settle in. Then show up, have fun, and enjoy your new moves.

 

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

3 Comments

  1. Penny August 9, 2016 Reply

    I’m a little disappointed that you don’t have square dancing as a dance style for seniors. Square dancing is just like walking,it’s inside on a smooth surface. The benefits of square dancing are reduce stress, increase energy and improve strength. It also lowers your risk of coronary heart disease, decreases blood pressure, helps you manage your weight, and strengthens the bones of your legs and hips. You can find square dancing in your area by searching the Internet for “(your state) square dancing”.

  2. Alan Manzer May 24, 2017 Reply

    Interesting blog site, I know there are seniors who like to move and/or hum to music in the privacy of their own digs, I wonder if it’s not possible to start something very basic like teaching rhythm—I do a thing that I call the senior shuffle (ha !) It’s done ‘in place’ not much of any foot movement involved it’s quite beneficial for me as I started this because I have a serious pulmonary condition along with other conditions that will not allow me to dance in a more traditional style, It seems like the first step might be to encourage elders to just let go,..leave the inhibitions at the door, come in and just learn to feel the music. have participants just sit in a chair and move their legs and or feet to the music– possibly demonstrate what the might be simple moves # 1, and so on….
    graduate up to a couple moves and speed— it’s amazing how fast this will translate to their upper body,,without them even realizing that.. pretty soon they will create several simple ,moves in a seated position. Just maybe these simple moves can work with most any music…feel the music,… feel the fun !!!!.

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